By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Muslim man in Pakistan kidnapped, raped and forced a 13-year-old girl to convert to Islam and marry him at gunpoint, the latest in “growing trend” of attacks against Christian women in the country and other Islamic nations, Christian rights investigators told BosNewsLife Thursday, March 5.
U.S.-based International Christian Concern (ICC) identified the girl as Rida Ilyas, a sixth-grade student living in a small Christian neighborhood in the city of Faisalabad, in Punjab province.
ICC said it learned that a Muslim man, identified as Muhammad Shahid, “accosted her at gunpoint” as she was leaving her school.
“He told her to be quiet or she would be killed, and forced her to convert to Islam,” ICc told
BosNewsLife. “He wanted to marry her, and so for two days he raped her thinking that she would agree to the marriage to cover the shame of being raped.” The well-informed group said, “It is illegal in Pakistan for women to marry under the age of 16.” She was released on February 15, ICC added.
Rida was able to return to her family, who filed a criminal case against Shahid at the police station. Shahid reportedly responded by attempting to take custody of Rida until she was 16 and could legally marry him.
“Fortunately, Rida’s family was able to gather support from their local Christian leaders and lobbied police until they agreed to drop Shahid’s claim on Rida.”
Rida’s family said it is relieved, but has refused to send her back to school for fear that Shahid
would try to kidnap her again. “Thank God my daughter came back. It’s a miracle of Jesus Christ,” Rida’s mother said in published remarks. “I know of a Christian girl’s case who was kidnapped, sold to another man as a sex slave, and forced into Islam. After a year her dead body was delivered to her home,” the ICC quoted the unidentified mother as saying.
ICC sad it understood that the mother does not want to see the police or doctor’s medical
report on the rape case. “Rida’s mother is rightly cynical of receiving justice from the Pakistani authorities, who often ignore Christian complaints altogether.”
ICC said the girl’s experiences was part of “a growing trend in Muslim countries where Muslim men are given financial rewards for converting a Christian woman to Islam by forcibly marrying them.”
In the past year, ICC said it received five confirmed reports on Christian girls kidnapped and raped by Muslim men who were attempting to force them into Islam in Pakistan.
They included Farzana Rashid, 14, who was kidnapped by police on March 28, 2008 from her house in Lahore and was raped and charged with a false crime, ICC said. Later, on May 14, Sumaira Rafiq Masih was reportedly raped by three influential landowners when she was working in the fields near Patoki town in Punjab province,
On June 4, a Muslim man, identified as Ramzan, allegedly kidnapped two Christian sisters from Chak 285-JB, village in Punjab province. Saba Younis, 13, and Anila Younis, 10, were kidnapped several weeks later on June 26, by a Muslim man named Muhammad Arif Bajwa, investigators said.
In November, Parvisha, 18, and Sanam, 14, told a local magistrate in Gujranwala about their abduction from their home, rape, and forcible conversion to Islam, ICC said. “Muslim fanatics and sexual predators in Pakistan see Christian girls as easy prey for their lust because the government does not defend them,” said ICC Regional Manager for South and Central Asia, Samuel Wallace, “Protecting the most vulnerable in society is the government’s responsibility,
and it is to their shame that Pakistani officials fail to prosecute these heinous violations of human dignity.”
Pakistani officials have not commented on the latest reported rape case. However Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities’ Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, has told BosNewsLife he wants to improve proection for minority Christians. He has also urged all Christian clergy men and congregations “to earnestly pray for the abolition of the black Blasphemy Laws of the country,” which he says have been misuded to persecute Christians. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Jawad Mazhar in Pakistan and Stefan J. Bos.)